Monday, May 25, 2015

AFIB


Atrial fibrillation, which is rather common in folks over 65, seriously folded me into its ranks early this month. I don't feel terribly unique as it affects 2.6 million people in the US. While it is common and potentially serious, it is also treatable and people can live long, normal lives with this condition. 

Mine started years ago as a rare episode of rapid, irregular heartbeats that would last at most for a few minutes then disappear for many months. However is it a progressive condition and mine has progressed which it is inclined to do with age. 


I did not seek treatment for it seemed innocent enough at the time. Then several weeks ago, I had three episodes that occurred every other day and lasted for about 16 hours each.  OK, now it had my attention. I was finally scared enough to seek help.


Afib will not kill you but one possible side effect with this condition is stroke. The irregular rhythms can cause you to throw a clot which can become lodged in the brain and cause serious damage. Not something to ignore.


The primary treatment to prevent a stroke is to keep the blood thin with anticoagulants--the most common is Coumadin which is basically rat poison.  That alone kept me from seeking treatment for many years. It requires constant monitoring and a strict diet, besides who wants to take rat poison for the rest of their lives.  I am allergic to aspirin so that simple measure was out. 


After a long sit down with Dr. Google, I immediately quit all caffeine (bye-bye coffee and chocolate), salt, allergy meds and NSAIDs for arthritis. These are   known triggers.  I had just started taking Aleve for my arthritis. Not sure if that might not have been the trigger for the long episodes but no more NSAIDs just in case. 


Those efforts stopped the long episodes but I knew I needed more help.  I tried to get in to see a cardiologist but they require a referral. My only doctor for years has been my urologist and he wouldn't do. So I had to become a new patient of a general practitioner so I could be properly referred.  Grrr.  


My new family doctor did a complete blood panel on me and the results were delightfully encouraging. All my levels were normal or better. He said I had better numbers than most 30 year olds. That perked me up. At least I could scratch diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol off my list.  Even with his referral it took weeks to get an appointment with the cardiologist. 

The main reason for this post is not about what is happening to me but what I have found. You know I am HUGE on finding something simple for a sticky situation.  Even with the drug, I will most likely still have the episodes but at least the fear of stroke will be reduced. Still that doesn't help a whole bunch when awakened in the wee hours by the crazy heartbeat. By scouring the Web, I may have found something simple to help with that. 


One of the many site  I visited suggested that often just listening to a normal heartbeat could be beneficial in restoring a proper rhythm. The other night I awoke once again to the wild thumping so I found a heart rhythm site on YouTube and listened to the normal heartbeat while playing solitaire on the computer for distraction. 


Instead of lasting for 16 hours, listening to the normal beat lowered my heart rate from an 165 irregular beats per minute to a nice steady 60 bpm in little over half an hour. I am sure anxiety feeds the erratic rhythms and the reassuring slow beats from my computer were quite calming. This might also work for people who suffer panic attacks. 


So I thought, what if I could mimic that sound without having to get out of bed? Am I lazy or what?  That is when I found this item.




This is a Baby Sound Spa which has a variety of sound buttons such as ocean, thunderstorm, summer night, white noise and brook, but most importantly, it has the heartbeat one. Now I can use the sound of the ocean to put me to sleep but if I awake thumping erratically, I can switch to the heartbeat mode and calm my wayward heart.   

  
The good thing about a no salt diet is that food tastes really blah with out it so there is no desire to load my plate with boring food. Since leafy greens are not particularly good due to the abundance of Vitamin K in them which has a clotting factor, I am regularly added raw carrots and raw veggies to my red-meatless meals for that crunch. 

This has the great affect of slowing my eating down enormously. Unless you are a rabbit, you can't wolf down a carrot. It requires lots of chewing. My meal time lasts longer and I eat less. A win/win and you are right again Manzi.


I have lost 8 pounds so far with no trouble. All in all, I am hugely optimistic and not really worried.Tomorrow is my appointment so I will know more then. 


I just wanted to let those of you who are also part of the 2.6 million that there are some non-toxic helpers for the unpleasant aspects of this condition like this Baby Sound Spa. Hope this helps those of you who have it or know someone who does.


Stay well my friends. 


33 comments :

  1. This just might be the greatest post of your lifetime. I am forwarding it to my sister. She too is struggling and finding very little help medically. Right now she is scheduled for surgery that I can't remember the name of but it's a biggie to correct this in her. Thanks for posting!!!! Yikes, see why we should never be absent from blog reading.

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  2. I don't know what happened to the font on your blog, but I finally was able to read it by making it huge. Usually your font is nice and large, but not today. Anyway, I'm glad you've found a workaround until you get to the cardiologist. But now you've got me wondering if the couple of times I've awakened in the middle of the night with a pounding heartbeat were the beginnings of AFIB. I'll follow your links. Thanks, Patti, and you'll be on my mind until I hear more. Sending you virtual hugs. You're one of my favorite people, after all! :-)

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  3. Granny Annie's right. This post is a huge public service.
    I'm also impressed with your pro-active thinking. Your investigative work, followed by your own "clinical" trials will very likely help a great number of people.
    It was just helpful to me to learn about the condition.

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  4. Funny you should post this... My first visit to any doctor in years is scheduled for this week.

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  5. Excellent sleuthing on Dr. Google! I love your Baby Sound Spa heartbeat idea. What a fantastic solution. I hope all goes well at the doc's and that your heart is beating in a wonderful steady calm rhythm. Take care there.

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  6. Sending to my sister. I'm glad this is helping you, and I will remember it for when I feel anxious..which I have been doing alot because of these bad storms.

    Have a blessed day and stay dry!

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  7. Thanks for doing the research!!

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  8. That is an amazingly simple solution that will no doubt help many. As far as I could tell from Mike's experience with the heart resets and chemical cocktails and the invasive surgeries--all the treatments are not much more than experimental crapshoots. Go with the simplest measures.

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  9. I read your post to my husband Art. Wouldn't surprise me to see the Baby gadget on his nightstand sometime soon. Also, I don't think either of us realized that allergy meds could be a trigger.

    He has decided on aspirin as an anticoagulant, though he knows there's a stroke risk. He is adamantly opposed to the rat poison unless the docs say there's no other option.

    I notice he's been going to the gym and eating differently recently. Always a good sign when a person changes how they're operating.

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  10. Some thoughts for you: This past winter, I started drinking more coffee even at nights.. I thought, since I could sleep, that the caffeine wasn't hurting me.. WELL--I started having some heart palpitations while sleeping... Scared me (since I had never had a heart problem before).. I went to Dr. Google also--and realized that it must be the excess coffee... I cut down my coffee to two cups in the morning --and NO MORE problems at all.

    I don't use salt (haven't for a long time) but when I want some flavor, I use Seasalt. You might try that... I have been off NSAIDS for years --after a doctor told me not to take them. I only use Tylenol these days--but Tylenol is not as good as NSAIDS for arthritis.... Oh Well....

    There's a free online nutrition program --which we now use. It's called "My Fitness Pal" ---and it does a great job helping me make sure I get enough protein/fiber/potassium/calcium/Vit. C, etc... You might want to download it and try it... I absolutely LOVE it... It also helps me not eat too much sugar. We eat alot of fruits --which contain sugar...

    Did you say that you are 'meatless'???? IF SO, be sure to find other ways to get your Protein... We 'olders' need more protein -over 60 grams a day...

    Well---enough of my thoughts.. Good Luck.. IF you want more info on any of this, just ask.

    Hugs,
    Betsy

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  11. Yes, me too.
    From maybe one or two episodes a year I am now on an episode of AFIB every two months or so.

    I take beta blockers and rat poison.

    When it happens I instantly take a full dose of extra blockers, a sleeping ill, a tranquilliser, a spray under the tongue and paracetamol.

    This means that I fall asleep and therefore don’t panic. If an episode goes on for more than 12 hours I must call an ambulance and get admitted to hospital. The episode stops as suddenly as it starts but I feel very poorly afterwards for a day or more.

    My episodes are caused most often by adrenaline, which means I have been stressed, sometimes without knowing it.
    Coffee and tea are no-nos, as is strenuous work and certainly no sudden heavy lifting, ever.

    I still allow myself chocolate.

    I’ve never thought of a tape of regular heartbeats. I will check out the site.

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  12. Dear Patti, I was sorry to hear you're having to visit a cardiologist. Now I only hope he's as cute as mine, which, of course, is good for the heart! That said, you MUST do your own research and then make decisions based on what you feel is personally good for you. I've found that my cardiologist never veers from the cookie-cutter approach, and if I challenge him, he gets a bit defensive (though he seems to like the give and take). I am able to take a baby aspirin daily which I do - I'm off all other meds except supplements. My cardiologist OK's acetaminophen for pain (not considered a NSAID), but it also does nothing for inflammation, so may not be helpful with arthritis. (Too much acetaminophen can damage the liver.) I take painkillers infrequently. We eat lots of raw veggies in salads and use a good olive oil and vinegar for dressing. It's true that some dark green veggies like Kale have K in them, but the body needs a certain amount of K to allow other minerals like calcium and magnesium to work in the body. My DR says you'd have to eat a lot each day for it to make a significant difference in your blood clotting. We don't salt anything and when we eat out, the food often tastes way too salty. (Your tastebuds definitely do adjust to little or no salt.) We have a protein daily - however, I limit red meat. Protein is important, so if you are becoming a vegetarian, you should research combinations that will give you optimum protein. I gave up most caffeine after my heart attack 5 years ago, but I do drink one cup of black tea in the morning and still have a small taste of dark chocolate nearly every day - life's too short to give up everything. I do drink decaffeinated teas and coffees and have come to enjoy them. I think your sound machine idea is brilliant, and I wonder if part of what makes it work is that it slows and deepens your breathing and relaxes your body. I use deep breathing exercises before bed that help the body to relax. Good Luck, Patti - you always put an intelligent and positive twist to problems you face. Hugs from CO.

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  13. Grannie Annie,
    Oh I do hope some of this helps your sister. It sounds like she is facing Cardiac Ablation. It is often very successful and I hope fixes her arrhythmia.

    Djan,
    Thanks, hug recieved and back at ya on favorites.
    Sounds like you might be just starting. It is quite common in our age group. Hope some of the sites help. Take care.

    Marty,
    Hum I guess you could call them clinical trials. I am a big believer that we have a lot of control over our health.

    turquoisemoon,
    Hope yours is just a check up. Let us know.

    robin,
    Aw thanks and I will do my best. I do love Dr. Google. He is really smart and inexpensive.

    Terri,
    It is soothing but I am sure you could skip the thunderstorm button. I guess that soothes some people. This has been a stormy, wet one one hasn't it?

    Fishducky,
    My pleasure. I do enjoy the challenge.

    Olga,
    Sometimes I am convinced that doctors make life too complicated. I wish Mike had been able to find his answer in time. Sometimes we are afraid not to trust the doctors.

    Linda,
    I do believe we can correct a lot of what happens to our bodies. It just takes work and change. Art seems to be able to do that so he is ahead of the game. Hope this gadget works for him also.

    Betsy,
    You are a prime example of someone who has successfully taken charge of their own health. Your weight loss and keeping it off is so admired.
    Thanks for the link. I will check it out. As for meat, I have only given up red meat. I still eat fish and chicken.

    Friko,
    So good to hear from you but sorry you are in the same boat. You seem to have a successful cocktail to calm your heartbeat. Pretty sure stress and anxiety exacerbate the problem and that is why the baby machine works for me anyway. It has a very calming effect.

    Barb,
    Thank you so much. You have given me the extra push to not just fall into the cookie cutter approach most often prescribed. I think I can now talk him into letting me continue on my approach and not go the rat poison route unless my approach doesn't work.
    I am not a vegan and have only cut out red meat. I eat salmon and chicken with an occasional egg to get my protein. I actually don't feel all that deprived. I am making my meals count with no wasted calories.

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  14. As a fellow afibber I just want to let you know there is an alternative to warfarin or aspirin. There are several new anticoagulants available that do not require the lab monitoring or diet concerns. Also you may eat green vevgies with warfarin as long as you are very consistent. I also recommend that you see an EP ( electrophysiologist) Instead of a general cardiologist. EPs are the specialists in heart rhythm disorders. Mine found a medication regimen that has greatly improved my quality of life. Best wishes.
    ,

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  15. I LOVE that you share all of these things with us! Your researching is Fabulous---And I had not known about The Rat Horror-Show stuff----INCREDIBLE!!!

    I don't have AFIB but I know or knew many people who do have it....I am going to pass ALL of your wonderful suggestions on to them.....And I wish you ALL the Best, my dear Patti......I hope your Cardiologist is open to these more natural solutions.....!
    Thanks so much for sharing all of this, my dear.....and Much Good Luck To You!!!

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  16. Good information which I hope I never need.

    Good luck with the treatment.

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  17. I am very impressed with your thorough research for simple solutions.

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  18. This was a great post. So very informative. I hope your doctor visit is a positive experience.

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  19. So glad you are finding natural remedies. I think we will have to do this more often since it seems the medical community is built with many road blocks.

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  20. Thank you for sharing this information. Both of my parents had strokes, and both were on Warfarin (which I assume is the Canadian brand name for same med you mentioned since it too is a rat poison). It's always been on my mind that I'm take after my mom so the same fate. I've recently cut out coffee, changed my diet, started walking a lot more and I'm hopeful there won't be a stroke coming my way for a very long time.

    Good luck at the cardiologist. I hope his suggestions are easy to follow and resolve the issue.

    P.S. I may have to buy one of those baby spas ...love the thought of falling asleep to the sound of the ocean.

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  21. Marilyn,
    Thank you for stopping by and for your useful comment. So sorry you have Afib but glad you are controlled. I am aware of some much more friendly drugs but sadly they are really expensive and out of my range. I wish there were an EP close by but that is one of the drawbacks of living rural. I am still in the diagnostic process.

    Naomi,
    So good to hear from you Naomi and do hope some of the info might be helpful to your friends. It is a common complaint for people our age. So far my cardiologist is very conservative which I appreciate.

    Linda,
    Thank you. I do enjoy digging into Google's bowels for helpful stuff. What a tool the Internet is.

    Brighid,
    Thank you and so far so good. I like him and he has me on a 30 day monitor to find out what is going on. I appreciate his looking before he leaps approach.

    Joeh,
    Thank you Cranky and I hope you never experience any of this.

    Gail,
    I do believe there is so much we can do for our health that is in our own hands. I plan to do my part.

    Eileen,
    Yes, it is the same medicine. You are so smart to be proactive and to do what you can to avoid any future problems. So far I am still in a diagnostic stage but the good thing is that my measures seem to be working.
    The ocean was the best of the sounds.

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  22. Rat poison?!! Yikes! Thanks a million for this post. The baby spa thing is just brilliant! I have one I used for my grandson. I am getting batteries for it today and giving it a try for my anxiety. With my hearing loss I will probably need to hold it next to my ear but that is ok. I see me sitting on my patio swing, gently swaying and listening to a heartbeat as my go to method for panic attacks and anxiety. Again, thanks a million for this brilliant idea. I am so glad I came to your blog today!

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  23. Thank you for this post; I knew nothing about AFIB and now I know quite a bit. Your use of the baby machine for heatbeat sound is wonderful!

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  24. The EP comment is right on. I had taken various meds to control arrhythmia and rat poison for ten years after the problem had been ignored for ten previous years until the episodes were growing longer and longer. Finally the meds were no longer sufficient and going up the basement steps left me out of breath and exhausted. Finally Mayo Clinic did an "ablation procedure" and I haven't be bothered by any AFib for almost four years now..... :)

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  25. My Cardiologist told me to stop eating "white stuff"! No bread, no starches, no pasta. "But what about cheerios...that's good for cholesterol." Nope....no starches. It seems I am all starched up, i.e. full of sugar. She says that if I lay off starches for two months I will lose 20 pounds guaranteed.

    Blood pressure medicine, blood thinner, cholesterol medicine....and now they take my pasta away from me. I didn't bargain for this as part of growing old gracefully.

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  26. Hi Patti, I hope your next appointment finds everything well with you. The Afib would be very scary. I have had PVC's for years and they are scary enough. Anything to do with the heart is always a worry. I take a beta blocker and that helps a lot and also keeps my blood pressure in check. Take care and stay well!

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  27. Patti, you have been very thoughtful and reasonable in your approach to this medical issue. I really admire that. I am way to familiar about issues of the heart. I've suffered for years from arrhythmia with a bit of Afib thrown in and then the tachy brady syndrome which meant I got a pace maker. I am so familiar with those racings of the heart that only get worse with anxiety. My hubby is so good about calming me down so my heart will calm.

    I've tried beta blockers and calcium channel blockers and they make me sick and I refuse to take them. I take a baby aspirin now. I try not to worry too much about it all. I think the heart ablation helped and the pacemaker is really helping. My arrhythmia had become something I could no longer live with because I was nearly blacking out from low beats and fast beats. If you can function, then just monitor your symptoms. In the end, you must make informed decisions, talk frankly with your doctor, and switch doctors if they don't listen. I do know that it is best to try to find your triggers for Afib and avoid them, but that is also tricky. The more Afib you have, the more you will have. It only takes one time to throw off a clot (I understand), so I take the baby aspirin, try to control my stress and anxiety, and love the idea of the baby monitor. I drink one cup of coffee a day, stay away from red wines and sulfites, and eat one piece of dark chocolate a day. I sleep to the sounds of rain on one of those sleep machines. This calms me at night.

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  28. Jeepers, Patti. Good to hear about your levels though! The Doc's statement about most 30 year olds blood work is a true sign our train has come off the tracks in the US. Most kids on SAD (standard American diet) have early cardiovascular disease by college.
    Anywho, keep up the good work. and keep chewing your carrots.
    Best regards.

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  29. Aunt Betsy,
    I really hope it works for you. It sure did for me. I like the idea of swinging and relaxing while listening. Go for it.

    Terra,
    Thank you so much for stopping by and commenting. Often it is the simple measures that work the best.

    TB,
    I have heard some amazing things about ablation and I am so glad it worked so well for you. I am keeping that as my safety net. It is always great to know there are successful options. It makes anxiety go away.

    Jerry,
    Good to see you again. Yep, aging is almost like becoming a two year old again. All the meanies are telling us NO about most things we have enjoyed for years. I have given up all white but still stick with whole wheat options. Good luck with your new program.

    Cheryl,
    Sorry you are bothered by the PVCs but am glad you have found a method to keep it all in control. Keep up the good work. Yep, the heart will get our attention in a hurry.

    Sally,
    I knew you have been having heart problems but wasn't aware of just exactly what was the problem. I remember when you recently got the pace maker and was so pleased for you that it was working so well and giving you back you life. So far I am pleased with my Dr. He is conservative about giving me a bunch of meds before finding out what my problems really are. I will wear the monitor for a month but luckily so far, I have had no further episodes. Fingers crossed.

    Barry,
    You made a great point. I have read that even teens now days have restricted arteries. We really need to have a wake up call in America or our average lifespan in the future will rival third world countries.

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  30. Think of Coumadin as a people drug that when given to a rat causes the blood to not clot and the rat dies. It would do the same if given to any animal in a sufficient quantity. As an ER nurse I hate if when people call it rat poison, refuse to take it and then have a stroke. If that happens, trust me you will be on lots of drugs and may not be well enough to live at home. For most people Coumadin doses are easy to regulate providing you follow a diet. You can eat greens but need to do so in a consistent manner and not eat a lot one week and none the next. There are other drugs out there but at this time only Coumadin has a reversal drug available. Eliquis is the next one that will shortly have a reversal drug available. Another way to look at is like this: chocolate is a dog poison but that doesn't stop us from eating it. Sometimes we have to just pick the lesser of two evils. Not taking Coumadin and betting that you will not have a stroke could have tragic results. Good luck.

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  31. Karen,
    Thank you so much for stopping by with your informative comment. I was unaware of the reversibility of Coumadin which is a real positive. That would probably explain the lawsuit against Eliquis now. I wouldn't be able to afford the newer drugs but trust me, I will be taking Coumadin if my doctor deems it necessary. The alternative is not acceptable but I am hoping I won't be facing that. The test results this month will determine that.
    Since I have given up chocolate, perhaps if I think of it as dog poison, I won't miss it so much.

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  32. My daughter had one of those white noise machines for my granddaughter. It worked like a charm.

    Hmmm... Your Afib is making me think I've got a friend who might have something like that because she calls it panic attacks. I'll have to mention this to her. My husband has arrhythmia which he is taking medication for. At our age, we have all these things that pop up. I'm glad we can learn from each other.

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  33. I have had that issue for many years. I have to take B6 every day tonavoid trouble. And I think that the triggers you have opted to stop may send your body's electrolytes off even more. You say blood work was great so then only a tiny tweak may be needed. Also spring allergies could be your trigger. Did you knoe a teaspoon of pure sodium bicarbonate in a glss of water can be useful for many things as it helps neutralize ?
    Your weight loss is interesting. I think the only food to drop ought to be coffee. What to add might be a question?

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